Moral Money: our reader wants to know if she can say no to a relative and still avoid a family feud

‘How can I decline an expensive overseas wedding invite without burning bridges?’

Moral Money: our reader wants to know if she can say no to a relative and still avoid a family feud

Dear Moral Money,

One of my relatives has recently just got engaged. She and her fiancé want to get married next year, but have chosen to go abroad, to a country where there is no family connection – none of the guests live there – but they have chosen the destination because it will be scenic and “cheaper”.

My family and I are expected to attend, but our finances are already spoken for over the next few months – we have already committed to an expensive holiday later this year and we’re expecting a big tax bill that we’ve been budgeting for.

This wedding is set to take place during a popular holiday period, and my husband and I will both have to take a short time off work – we’re both contractors, so if we don’t work, we don’t earn. So, on top of the expense of flights and accommodation, we’d also lose work.

This could end up costing thousands of pounds that we haven’t budgeted for.

It has been suggested we use this occasion for a holiday, but we aren’t interested in visiting the destination and would never choose to go there.

The wedding may be “cheaper” for the couple getting married, but will incur costs for every single guest.

Are we obliged to travel to wherever a family member plans on getting married? Can we refuse to attend due to the huge expense it puts on us as paying guests?

We are in a real quandary as this could result in a huge row and family feud.


Dear reader,

I too have been invited to destination weddings – one in Sri Lanka and one Benidorm – I accepted one and declined the other, and I have to confess it was all about whether the destination appealed or not. 

I personally don’t feel anyone is obligated to accept a destination wedding invitation. I think the bride and groom generally realise that not everyone invited will accept.

In fact, I feel sure the destination wedding I politely declined had been purposefully selected to make it more likely that certain members of the wedding party would accept, while others would be put off – I think everyone made the choices right for them and it created the wedding intended by the organisers. 

The obligation to invite people you have little in common with, but are related to, can be as problematic as the grappling with a sense of obligation about whether you “should” attend.

You haven’t mentioned anything about being an honoured guest or having a particular role in proceedings, but if you feel you want to support your relative maybe it doesn’t have to mean a whole family attendance? 

If other members of your family have other commitments – such as work and school trips – then maybe you could still attend alone?

I love a planner, and applaud a budget sorted for 2024 including tax bills, school terms confirmed, holidays booked, work schedules and resulting income generation mapped out.

As a chartered financial planner I salute you, but I have to say many others would have much more flexibility still available to them because they are not already so fully committed. 

One of the challenges of being a planner is that it can feel unsettling when we are required to be more spontaneous. I feel your pain.

I wonder if reframing this as an opportunity might help. Is there nothing about the destination that intrigues you? 

If fate is encouraging you to stretch yourself out of the repeat visits to your “usual haunt”, could it be viewed as a chance for an adventure that might not otherwise have arisen? 

Alternatively, perhaps you could encourage the newlyweds to hold a celebration of their marriage with family in the UK, having married wherever they choose. 

Your awesome organisation and planning skills could be very effective: you could offer to help arrange it, and if you offered at the same time as a polite declination of the invitation to the wedding, this could be pitched as a compromise.

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